Melbourne Lord mayor calls to curb “dog boxes in the sky”

By Leith van Onselen

Back in March, Melbourne’s Lord Mayor, Robert Doyle, has labelled “shameful” the proliferation of “dog boxes in the sky”. From The AFR:

“You know I am pro-development, but some of the developments that have been put before us are shameful”…

“Developments that are three times the recommended height limit: it’s not iconic, it’s just big.

“That rely on borrowed light: it’s not a bedroom, it’s a cupboard. These developments are not better for our city and we will not give them planning approval”…

Today, Doyle has gone one step further and called for residential development in Melbourne’s CBD to be curbed. From The AFR:

About 80 per cent of new floor space in the development pipeline for the central city is earmarked for residential…

There are now 20,000 apartments under construction in the City of Melbourne, Cr Doyle told The Australian Financial Review following a speech to the Planning Institute of Australia.

“There are 19,000 apartments which will be getting approval and we think there is something like 30,000 apartments in the pipeline.

“The vast majority – 95 per cent of these – are one or two bedrooms.

“It’s perhaps time to think about whether we need to move the balance of construction from residential more towards commercial.”

Doyle has a point. Annual highrise apartment approvals recently hit 24,000, roughly three times that of the mid-2003 peak when the Docklands/Southbank boom first took-off. Since then, however, they have begun to fall, suggesting the apartment bubble will deflate on its own accord:

ScreenHunter_14141 Jul. 22 10.52

Besides, the building of dog boxes for sale to foreign investors and migrants (international students) is now a fundamental driver of the Melbourne economy, which has gone all in on the housing/population ponzi. Moreover, the Victorian Government expects more of the same, projecting Melbourne’s growth will surge to 8 million by 2051:

ScreenHunter_14066 Jul. 17 17.20

Outside of dwelling construction and the services industries linked to endless migration (think cafes, universities and financial services), what else is there to drive Melbourne’s “growth”?

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Unconventional Economist
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  1. Nothing UE of any substance that earns foreign exchange. The dog boxes will be built, the money will come in from offshore, the CFMEU will have funds that they will pass onto the government.

  2. See, the problem is all in the marketing and branding.

    They should stop calling them “dog boxes” and start calling them “high rise dongas”. That’ll make all those unemployed miners more comfortable about renting them.

  3. LabrynthMEMBER

    I don’t know about Victoria but in NSW the state government determines the minimum size of apartments, not councils.

    Councils have smartened up and created stringent rules which force developers to increase the size of apartments without actually creating a minimum size which is overridden by the state rules. Things such as minimum sunlight, orientation and setbacks are design principals which can be used to determine the size of an apartment.

    Then again, the larger the apartment the more it will cost….

    The state government should allow with reason Councils to determine the Section 94 contributions for a development.

    Large two bedroom apartments (110m2) will incur a $0 penalty. Those that are 70m2 (state minimum) cop a $30,000 penalty. This will let the market truly decide if they want dog boxes then. If developers continue to build dog boxes and pay the increased penalty that is too bad for the urban planners.

    • Wow!

      That is a dream law!

      Any flat smaller than 50 sqm should have a $50,000 tax on it. Anything between 70-100 sqm has a $25k tax on it.

      And luxury showers/toilets can have a 1000% tax on them.

    • Wow, even the super-wide angle lens can’t conceal how tiny and poorly designed that place is. It could be a reasonable studio, maybe single bedroom, if rearranged, but calling it a 2-3 bedder is just taking the piss…

    • Thinking a bit more, these tiny places should put the fear of god into retailers like Gerry Harvey should they become the norm, as they place quite small limits on the amount of stuff you can fit in them.

    • I feel overwhelmingly claustrophobic just looking at that. In fact I still feel ill after closing the tab. I’ve lived in a small apartment in Dublin, but not sure I could do it again. I need space and freedom of movement.

    • adelaide_economistMEMBER

      Unfortunately it also provides a counter-example for those who think there’s no problem with housing affordability. “What do you mean expensive, you can get an inner city Melbourne apartment with 3 bedrooms for about $230k”. The scale on the floor plan is just breathtaking.

  4. My strongest recommendation to any prospective buyer of one of these highrise money pits is to get a professional psychiatric assessment. I remember Warren Buffett saying; If I ever get an itch to by airline stocks, I have a 1300 toll free number to call. Besides poor construction that will cost the earth in repairs and legals, tenants are getting seriously scarce on the ground, if you speak to landlords and watch the number of empties.

    This truly is a mugs game for the uninitiated!

  5. Too late Doyle.

    There is a colossal oversupply of dog boxes – many of which are illegal.

    Alan Davies has been cheering on dog boxes for years and now we see the result. Cement, glass, steel, that could have been used to build more livable flats for a slightly higher price has been wasted.

    And people that are willing to live in flats turned away because hardly any 4 bedroom flats were built.

    • DodgydamoMEMBER

      Indeed, the NW corner of the CBD is something to behold. Either new apartment towers with Chinese language REA in the bottom, or building sites and display suites for new apartments going up, or sham ‘educational’ institutions and clusters of their clientele. Thank Christ there’s some strip joints to enhance the neighbourhood character.

    • Doughy Doyle is rather late to all the Melbourne apartment f#ckery.
      The horse has well and truly bolted on this one.

  6. “Outside of dwelling construction and the services industries linked to endless migration (think cafes, universities and financial services), what else is there to drive Melbourne’s “growth”?”